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Coconut milk (read it, even if you can't eat it!)

BY: Andrea Nakayama

DATE: 2014-04-22

Sometimes you just don’t have time to make it yourself.

Consumer’s Report, from Replenish PDX, offers recommendations and reviews for foodstuff you can purchase while aiming to achieve your optimal health and wellness.

This month: coconut milk (and oh so much more)

At the start of the month I wrote about my body’s reaction to eating eggs. I also mentioned that I’d share what I do ~ my tips and tricks ~ to address an autoimmune flare, as that’s what the eggs had initiated. I’ve been sitting with this concept. What is the toolbox for mitigating a flare (whether autoimmune or not. . . it could be gas, bloating, breakouts, PMS or any number of symptoms that go away and then return, seemingly out of the blue)?

Interestingly, I’m not alone. Not only did my eggy confession of inflammation get many responses and head nods, I also seem to be working with a number of clients right now who are trying to see the forest through the puffy, painful, tender trees.

And while I am working on drawing these tips and tricks out for you, with more details (in a newsletter coming your way soon), I thought I’d list my TOP 3 techniques for you here:

1: Stop Lying to Myself

2: Come Back to Center

3: Tune into my Body’s Wisdom (my own body has something to tell me!)

I write what I’m about to write with regret and remorse:
There is no perfect diet for anyone ~ any condition, any time in life.

What worked for your neighbor with the same diagnosis may not work for you.

What brought healing and repair for you two years ago may no longer do the trick.

What we think is “perfect eating” may not be perfect for right now, to address what ails you. In fact coconut milk, which we will be getting to shortly (I promise), may be the wrong food for you.
Why that is comes down to the intersection between your unique and ever-changing physiology, and your environment, including what you eat. It’s the beauty and blessing of being you. Yet this can make it hard to come back to center, as noted in #2 in my short list above.

That said, many people are finding that their center involves some form of what’s called an autoimmune paleo diet ~ a set of principles that takes anti-inflammatory guidelines up a notch, removing the most inflammatory foods and incorporating the most nutrient-dense foods, and that Mickey Trescott describes beautifully and deliciously in The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook.

At Replenish we work with a good number of people that need to find their way back to center for a variety of reasons. By center I mean what works and what doesn’t, especially to calm a flare or an array of symptoms that just won’t quit.
I asked the Replenish Nutrition team to posit their pressing questions for Mickey and I’m excited to share that Q&A with you here.

A Conversation with Mickey Trescottauthor of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook

[Question]Do you think eating a vegan diet was a triggering event for your Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and/or Celiacs Disease? If yes, what aspect of it do you think did not work for your body? Do you think it was because you were eating specific foods that cause inflammation in your body like grains or nightshades or because you weren’t eating animal protein, or both?

[Answer] While I would love to blame the onset of my autoimmunity on diet (especially since it does not run in my family), I do not believe veganism caused either of them. Given that, I do think it contributed to the depth and severity of my eventual crash. I was eating a huge amount of beans and grains, especially soy in the form of tempeh, as well as nightshades. In addition to this, I ate a lot of processed food and a fair amount of sugar.

When I crashed in 2011, I was incredibly low in nutrients like vitamin D, iron, b12, zinc, all found in animal foods. I also suspect I needed things like vitamin A, omega-3 fats, and selenium. Deficiencies in this many nutrients for sure has a negative impact on overall health, especially to someone with autoimmunity. I was not able to recover from this crash until I changed my diet to incorporate animal foods.
[Question] I’m guessing that making that transition from vegan to paleo was not an easy step mentally or physically for you. How do you help others who are strict vegans (especially for ethical reasons) make the transition?

[Answer] I never try and convince people to change their convictions about eating animal products, but I do feel it’s important to share my story and the science I have learned about the nutrients that our bodies need to function optimally. I came to Paleo only because I was in a very desperate place—unable to hold a job or participate in society. I tried it as a last ditch effort, and it worked.

If I have a reader who has already made the decision to make the transition, I help them incorporate animal products into their diet in a very gradual way, usually by suggesting they enlist a friend or family member in purchasing and cooking the meat for them and preparing it mixed with other foods until they get used to the texture. I also coach them on the ways to find meat from trustworthy farms and avoid conventional meat.
[Question]As one is transitioning to an AIP (autoimmune paleo) in general, what tips and tricks do you find help make that transition easier to implement?

[Answer] Batch cooking is a routine I suggest everyone who is new to the AIP get started with. Every week, you take a day or two to spend some extended time cooking and preparing extra meals for the week. I like to make things like bone broth, soups, stews, breakfast patties, and shop and prep vegetable sides for the week. Some things get portioned out and stored in the fridge, others get frozen for a quick re-heat later. Having safe food available all the time will make it easier to adhere to the diet during those weaker moments when a person doesn’t have a chance to cook!
[Question]For whom is your protocol not appropriate? Or, in your opinion, is it the best way to eat for all autoimmune diseases?

[Answer] I think the autoimmune protocol is the best framework to start for everyone with an autoimmune disease. It is the most nutrient-dense way of eating, and perfectly healthy for all phases of life, provided the person eats a wide variety of compliant foods.

Finding out which foods are triggering symptoms is a very powerful tool in combating autoimmune disease. That being said, it is not the only piece, and there are other underlying issues that could be holding back progress, the most common I see are gut infections. These are best to work with a practitioner to get to the bottom of and seek treatment, in addition to finding out what foods work and don’t work with the AIP.

The only person I do not recommend trying the AIP is anyone with a background or history of an eating disorder. The AIP is pretty restricted, and can trigger some disordered tendencies in those with a history. If this is you, I recommend seeking professional help before starting AIP on your own.
[Question]What variations/modifications to the AIP do you find are most common, or worth exploring with clients who are implementing this diet?

[Answer] If people have further sensitivities (coconut would be an example of a common one), I suggest that people avoid the foods they are sensitive to in addition to the AIP. If people want to combine AIP with a pathogen-specific diet like low-FODMAPs or SCD, I don’t recommend this unless they have had specific testing and diagnosis from a practitioner. I think it is too restrictive to cut all of these foods that are otherwise healthy unless there is a medical reason.
[Question]Getting really specific here, what have you found to be the best way to help those that are struggling with an autoimmune protocol whom are also pregnant? Especially for those that cannot eat eggs, do you have a recommendation for how to get a good source of choline?

[Answer] This can be difficult especially in the beginning when food aversions set in. Depending on the person’s history and how severe their autoimmunity is, I might have them back off some of the eliminated foods and do a modified protocol that includes eggs, nuts and seeds (which are typically eliminated with AIP) during this time, checking in on how they feel.

For someone who is sensitive to eggs, a great source of choline is liver! For more reasons than just the choline, it is super helpful for people to eat organ meats—they have lots of B vitamins, iron, zinc, and the fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
[Question]Breakfast seems really hard on the AIP plan for many people. What is your favorite breakfast and how do you introduce variety into this meal?

[Answer] These days I usually eat a leftover portion of whatever I ate for dinner the night before, like salmon and vegetables or a soup or stew. I always add some fermented vegetables to my meal, and sometimes a piece of fruit or half an avocado. In the beginning I recommend that people make breakfast patties during their batch cooking routine and freeze them between slices of wax paper for quick re-heat in the morning. They can then assemble a meal with a meat patty, some ferments, a mug of broth, some leftover veggies and perhaps a piece of fruit.
[Question]Thank you Mickey! One last question for you: What’s your favorite thing about being a AIP eater?

[Answer] I love the affect it has on my health, energy, and well being!

Click here to take a good look at The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook: An Allergen-Free Approach to Managing Chronic Illness by Mickey Trescott.

What about coconut milk?

Before I share how to be a smart coconut milk consumer, let’s consider if coconut is a superfood (with a reminder to check-in and consider if it’s a superfood for you):

There’s a tremendous amount of research showing the benefits of the oil from coconut for a variety of health concerns. In Sanskrit, the coconut palm is known as kalpa vriksha, meaning “the tree that supplies all that is needed to live.” But why?

Regulates Cholesterol:

That’s right! Studies reported in Clinical Biochemistry supported the hypothesis that consumption of coconut oil had a beneficial effect in lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, phospholipids and low density lipoproteins (LDL). The fatty acids in coconut oil prevent the oxidation of cholesterol that can lead to atherosclerosis.


Lauric acid is a substance found only in breast milk and coconut oil. It’s a potent anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral agent that can disrupt the growth of many viruses and bacteria. Think of it as one of your primary germ fighters. (Also great for combating yeast!)

Weight Management:

The MCFAs (medium chain fatty acids) in coconut are digested and utilized differently than most fats. They do not circulate the bloodstream like other fats, but instead go directly to the liver where they are converted into energy. They help control blood sugar and are not stored as fat. Coconut consumption ultimately leads to a reduction in fatty deposits and weight reduction.


Coconut oil appears to double the body’s ability to use antioxidant omega-3 fatty acids. Taking your omega-3s (especially the plant sources like flax) with coconut further potentiates the benefits of the essential fatty acids. (check out the recipe below!)

Skin Conditioning:

Coconut oil is an effective moisturizer on all types of skins including dry skin. There is little chance of having any adverse side effects on the skin with the application of coconut oil, making it a safe solution for preventing dryness and flaking of skin. It also delays wrinkles, and sagging of skin, which normally become prominent with age. Coconut oil can also help in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections. It’s fantastic rubbed into the scalp to promote healthy hair and prevent a dry scalp.

What to buy?

Of course all coconut products are not made equal. While a fresh coconut, with the meat and water well-blended to make milk is best, that’s not always an option. Below are my top choices for store-bought coconut milk that is limited or lacking in health disrupting fillers and chemical-leaching packaging:
Arroy-D Coconut Cream 100%
Natural Value Coconut Milk
Native Forest Coconut Milk Classic
And best, yet, Mickey Trescott has an easy Creamy Coconut Milk recipe in the The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook that’s used in the EFA-boosting recipe below!

Mickey Trescott’s Coconut Crusted Cod with Mango Salsa

ingredients for the cod:

24 oz. cod fillet, cut into 2 inch thick strips

1-1/2 cups of coconut flour

1-1/2 tsp of ginger powder

1/4 tsp of salt

2 cups coconut milk

1 cup finely shredded coconut

2 Tbsp coconut oil
ingredients for the salsa:

1 large mango, peeled and diced

1 avocado, cubed

1/2 small red onion, diced

1 cucumber, diced

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 lime, juiced

1. Combine all of the mango salsa ingredients and set aside.

2. Wash, dry, and de-bone the cod fillets.

3. Combine the coconut flour, ginger powder and salt on a plate or shallow bowl. Place the coconut milk in another shallow bowl, as well as the shredded coconut. Dip the cod strips into the coconut milk, then the coconut flour mixture, back into the coconut milk, and finally into the shredded coconut, paying special attention to creating a thick breading.

4. Heat the coconut oil in the bottom of a skillet on high heat. When it is hot, cook the cod strips for five minutes a side depending on thickness of the fish, or until the top and bottom are nice and browned and the fish is cooked throughout. Once the cod strips are in the pan, try not to fuss with them too much – because there is no egg in the breading, they are a little delicate.

5. Serve with mango salsa.

That’s plenty to digest today. And I’d like to remind you to sit with these three principles:

1: Stop Lying to Myself

2: Come Back to Center

3: Tune into my Body’s Wisdom (my own body has something to tell me!)

What do they mean to you? Come share with me on the Replenish Facebook page and together let’s find our way back to our personal best.


Andrea Nakayama

By: Andrea Nakayama, FxNA Founder & Functional Medicine Nutritionist

Functional Nutrition Alliance provides the comprehensive online Functional Nutrition training in the Science & Art of the Functional Nutrition practice. Learn to address the roots of your clients’ suffering with client education, diet & lifestyle modifications.


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